The Berlin Wall rose in 1961 and fell in 1989. The wall completely encircled one city, West Berlin. West Berlin with 2 million inhabitants became a political island almost immediately after the 1945 surrender of Nazi Germany. In 1948 the Berlin Blockade, actual isolation of the city by Russia, could only be broken by the airlift of foods and supplies by the United States, Britain, France, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and several other countries.

But the wall fell from within, not with the help of these other countries. That’s what Gorbachev has always said. He repeated that today in Moscow.

Thousands of East Germans crossed to West Berlin in November 1989 after the Soviet-backed authorities unexpectedly ordered the opening of tightly guarded border crossings in the Wall. “If the Soviet Union had wished, there would have been nothing of the sort (the fall of the Wall) and no German unification.” said Gorbachev, 78. The Kremlin could have started World War Three in 1989 had it used troops to crush the demonstrations that preceded the fall of the Berlin Wall. When asked by a reporter why he did not use force to halt the demonstrations, Gorbachev said it would have sparked a catastrophic set of events and even a world war. Govbachev said,  “My policy was open and sincere, a policy aimed at using democracy and not spilling blood.”

Reagan gets all the credit for the peaceful fall of the Berlin Wall. In fact, it was the policies of Gorbachev that opened the no man’s land dividing East and West Berlin. Policies that cost him a political career in Russia.

Doing the right thing is never easy and almost always comes with pain. Gorbachev was willing to take the pains of leadership in 1989. Even if western history will never give him credit.

Advertisements